Mars Hill Forum #14: Abortion, Blockade & Gunfire: Georgetown University w/Kate Michelman of NARAL

John C. Rankin

On April 11, 1995, I hosted Kate Michelman, president of the National Abortion Rights Action League (NARAL) in a Mars Hill Forum at Georgetown University. It was entitled: Abortion, Blockade and Gunfire: Who Are The Peacemakers?

I had met Kate several years earlier in a chance encounter, and invited her to address such a forum. She was at the Republican Party Platform Committee hearings in Salt Lake City in May, 1992, trying to speak there even though she is a Democrat. I was in town teaching a seminar, and met her in front of the hotel where the hearings were being held. She rarely embraces public debate, but she was intrigued by the integrity of the forum as I proposed it, and thus accepted.

However, with just five minutes before the start of the forum, which was being broadcast live on C-Span, one of Kate’s assistants tried to change the agreed to ground rules, so as to cut out the one-on-one interchange between Kate and myself. But I said no – the personal interaction is central for the purposes of honest communication.

Kate testified that evening, as she does so often in public, of the trials and humiliation she suffered when her ex-husband left her in 1970 with three young daughters, and pregnant. She secured an abortion “for survival,” and has defended that prerogative ever since – being in the estimation of many, the most effective single-issue lobbyist on Capitol Hill since 1983 [she retired in 2004]. She did her best to minimize the one-on-one interaction time between us that evening by cutting into it with her lengthened opening statement.

But some good interaction did occur. At one point in the Q & A period, Kate was beginning to lambast “anti-choice” fanatics. Then she looked at me, sitting at the table next to her, reached out and touched me on the shoulder and said, “But not you, John.” Her whole countenance then changed. By profiling the true ethics and power of informed choice, the biblical witness can minister to the hearts and minds of those who have been violated by the male chauvinisms of the abortion ethos.

At the end of the evening there were still many people in the audience waiting in line to ask questions. Under the constraints of the time limit, the moderator made a passing comment that Kate and I would have future opportunity to continue the dialogue. Kate interjected with a passionate, “No!” She was not free to embrace a genuine love of hard questions in that context anymore, though in a live interview on CBN News right afterward, she was most gracious.

In my opening statement that evening, I made an argument that she never challenged, and the above vignettes help us understand why. I argued that there are five levels of violence surrounding the abortion debate, and I listed them in reverse order:

5. The violence of return gunfire (where a few abortion-rights supporters have fired guns, but to no one’s injury to date).

4. The violence of gunfire (e.g., John Salvi and Paul Hill killing abortionists or employees of abortion centers; plus implicitly the violence of bombings [even though many bombings have proven to be inside jobs of the abortion centers looking for insurance money]).

3. The violence of blockade (the violating of time and space, and its implicit paving of the way for an escalation to more severe forms of violence).

2. The violence of human abortion (its deliberate destruction of human life).

1. The violence of male chauvinism (its sexual idolatry which then coerces most abortion decisions into being).

The reality of the violence of male chauvinism, as the catalyst to a host of subsequent evils, is uncontested. Thus Kate could not counter it. Her testimony about having been abandoned by her ex-husband has always been effective as winning sympathy for her plight. And I honor that testimony from the outset. The answer however, is not to pass that violence on to the unborn.

After  the forum, I wrote Kate briefly. She had stated how her husband’s abandonment forced to abort their fourth child. I gently suggested that if we do not forgive those who betray us, we will forever be embittered, and thus, slaves to their sins. Our unforgiveness allows them still to control us. In order to be free, we need to exercise the power to forgive, as Jesus forgives his enemies and all humanity on the cross, as Stephen forgives his killers even as they stone him to death (see Acts 7:60).

When I originally hosted Patricia Ireland of NOW at Smith College, she too could not find any basis to criticize the ethics of a biblical pro-life conduct. She bristled against Operation Rescue, and I demonstrated my biblically principled opposition to its tactics. Thus, the basis was in place for a persuasive argument for the equal integrity of women and their unborn in the presence of a feminist audience. Consistent with the apostle Peter’s argument for being above reproach in a pagan culture, and consistent with the ethics of Esther and Daniel in the face of evil laws, I have sought to define and implement a strategy that thus succeeds.

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